Extending rail line could boost Suffolk businesses

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The East West Rail Consortium has published a report that shows that extending the East West Rail line from Oxford to Cambridge has real potential.

The report shows that the delivery of attractive new rail services between key locations could deliver substantial economic benefits and support significant growth in the East West Rail corridor.

The report concludes a study by Atkins Consultants and is the first step towards developing an outline business case for the East West Rail ‘Central Section’.

Working closely with the East West Rail Consortium and Department for Transport, Network Rail will now lead the next phase of work which will consider and examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential route options.

The aim is to establish a scheme with a robust and convincing business case that can be submitted to Government in 2016 to secure inclusion of the scheme, subject to funding availability, in the 2019-24 investment plans for the rail industry.

It has been a long term aim of the East West Rail Consortium to improve rail connections within the region by re-instating the former ‘Varsity Line’ between Cambridge and Oxford. This would provide the rail infrastructure for train services to run from East Anglia to Oxfordshire and beyond, with connections to all national mainline services to the north, west and south of England.

Councillor Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads, transport and planning, said: “The proposed East West Rail link represents a fantastic opportunity for Suffolk’s residents and economic growth.

“Suffolk’s businesses already have strong links to the Cambridgeshire economy, and the rail link will enable the county to extend its markets wider to West Anglia, central southern and south west England.”

“The rail link also has the potential to deliver more direct routes for our ports, which would help to reduce congestion on the main line into London.

“Opening up the route to freight use would hold other benefits, such as strengthening business cases for new infrastructure and increased passenger services between Ipswich and Cambridge.”

Graham Botham, principal strategic planner at Network Rail, said: “We welcome the exciting opportunity to unlock the economic growth of the region through improving rail services and the infrastructure that may be required to support these.

“We look forward to working with the Consortium to explore the role that rail services can play in facilitating growth of the economy”.

A copy of the Conditional Output Study is available from the East West Rail website: www.eastwestrail.org.uk/central-section